Almost every student knows about Isaac Newton’s famed encounter with a falling apple. Newton discovered and introduced the laws of gravity in the 1600’s, which revolutionized the study of physics and astronomy. Not many people, however, know that if it weren’t for Edmund Halley, the world might never have learned from Newton.
It was Halley who challenged Newton to think through his original ideas. Halley corrected Newton’s mathematical errors and prepared geometrical figures to support his discoveries. Halley coaxed the hesitant Newton to write his great work, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Halley edited and supervised the publication. He also ended up essentially financing the printing of the book, even though Newton was wealthier and could have more easily afforded to cover the printing costs. Historians call it one of the most selfless examples in the annals of science. Newton began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence. Halley, however, received little credit.
Edmund Halley did use these principles to predict the orbit and return of the comet which would later bear his name. Yet only after his death did he receive any acclaim. And because the comet only returns every seventy-six years, the notice this brilliant man receives is rather infrequent. Throughout his life, Halley remained a devoted scientist who didn’t care who received the credit, just as long as the cause was being advanced.
Friends, almost any group or organization will benefit from having people who don’t care who gets the credit, just as long as the cause is being advanced. That is especially true in the church of Jesus Christ. As Christians, our primary model is not Edmund Halley, but John the Baptist. Though John had a very successful ministry, he recognized that his primary role was to prepare the way of the Lord and point people to Jesus. He described himself (John 1:27) as someone unworthy to even tie Jesus’ sandals. Speaking of Jesus, John says, (John 3:30) “He must become greater, I must become less.” Receiving recognition and praise from others was not at the heart of John’s agenda. Having people give glory to Jesus Christ was.
All Christians should ask themselves these questions: Why am I involved at my church? Why do I help other people? Why do I give my money and time to various Christian groups? Is it so other people will think I am a wonderful person? Is it because I like being recognized and praised by others? Or is it because I want to see Christ honored and His kingdom advance in this world. As Christians our motto should be, “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as Jesus gets the glory!”
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church